Most of us grew up using a ballpoint pen in school. It feels familiar, comfortable, and easy to buy. In contrast, a fountain pen may seem scary and intimidating: “How do I use this? Why should I use this? What if I break it?”
I get the fear factor—I went through it before. But when I finally tried it, I realized a fountain pen is better than a ballpoint. It’s easier and more comfortable to write with, and even helped improve my handwriting. Plus, the newest fountain pens are just as affordable and convenient as ballpoints. It’s the best of both worlds!
So if you’re scared or skeptical of fountain pens, this article’s for you: let me tell you why the fountain pen is better than ballpoint, and why everyone should give it a try.
Table of Contents
Fountain pens use your natural writing position
In his essay in The Atlantic, teacher, and writer Josh Giesbrecht explains that the pen grip we were taught in grade school actually dates back to the times when people used fountain pens every day.
You know this grip: hand resting on the table, fingers gently holding the barrel while you hold the pen at an angle. In reality, modern ballpoint pens need to be held at a more upright angle and pressed down with more pressure.
That’s because fountain pen ink flows easily, while ballpoints use waxy ink that is pushed out of the tip when we push the pen against the paper. So whether you notice it or not, you end up either curling your hand inward or pushing down in a tight death grip.
That’s a recipe for hand strain, and why most of us hate manual writing because it makes our hands feel tired.” In fact, Giesbrecht says that the ballpoint pen likely contributed to the “demise of writing” – typing seemed easier and faster than grappling with a pen letter by painful letter.
The problem isn’t writing itself, but what you use with writing. With a fountain pen, your hand is relaxed and your fingers just guide the pen—barely exerting any effort.
Fountain pens have a variety of inks
It’s more economical for ballpoint pen manufacturers to produce ink colors that are widely used, such as black, blue, and red. You can find sets that include green, purple, or other shades, but these are both rare and limited. You can find bright purple, but not lilac; green, but not turquoise or emerald.
On the other hand, fountain pen inks have such a breathtaking variety. Even the “basic” blue can come in midnight blue, ocean blue, sky blue. You’ll also notice different effects. Some look matte, others have a slight shimmer. Some will have hints of green or purple if you hold them against the light.
Take a look at this collection by mountainofink.com. They have tested over 1,700 types of pen inks, and display some of their favorite colors.
That’s why a lot of people who own fountain pens will usually end up collecting inks and have so much fun playing with them. Life is too short to just use a boring black ballpoint pen; fill it with color.
Fountain pens allow different writing styles
Aside from having different kinds of inks, you can also choose from different kinds of fountain pen nibs. You can get a fine point for thin, elegant strokes; a thick point for bigger, bolder letters; or an angled nib that lets you twist the pen and end your letters with a flourish.
Fountain pens improve your handwriting
When I first started using fountain pens, I was not into calligraphy at all. But as I experimented with the pen, I enjoyed seeing how little changes in my hand position and pen angle produced different effects.
As I paid more attention to my handwriting and grabbed opportunities to handwrite simply because it was more fun, I noticed that my letters became more evenly spaced, and my script was clearer even when I wrote faster. Practice does make perfect, but playing with a fountain pen was infinitely more interesting than the handwriting drills I did in elementary school.
It also helped that the fountain pen is just generally easier and more comfortable to write with—when your hand is relaxed, your writing just looks better.
Fountain pens are beautiful
Ballpoint pens are generally made for function, not form. Even the best ballpoint pens aren’t likely to get a second glance. It writes well, but it’s not pretty.
However, many fountain pens are just stunning to look at. For example, the limited-edition Caran d’Ache “1010″ is studded with sapphires and rubies, and even has replicas of watch gears on its barrel. Or the Diamante by Aurora is encrusted with 30 carats of diamonds.
These pens are both writing instruments and works of art.
But you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a beautiful fountain pen. Wordsworth and Black’s fountain pen set is less than $25, but the barrel is made of beautiful bamboo and comes in a Rosewood carrying case. And this Scriviener Fountain Pen looks far more expensive than its $50 price tag.
You can pick a lot of styles, too. Aside from the classic executive pens in high-quality metal finishes, many brands have released pens in bright and bold colors. For those who want a more unique design, you can watch out for limited edition pens or scour collector forums for rare pens from discontinued lines.
Fountain pens are environmentally-friendly
There’s a growing movement to replace disposables with reusable items. Global warming is real, and we all have to find more ways to stop using up resources and filling landfills.
Changing from a ballpoint to a fountain pen is one step you can take. While there are refillable ballpoint pens, those plastic cartridges are still going to end up in the trash after a few weeks of use.
Meanwhile, a fountain pen can be refilled an infinite number of times with bottled ink. Each ink bottle can last you for months, and the ink keeps for years if you store it properly. The glass bottles are also recyclable or even reused.
I’ve used old, washed fountain pen ink bottles to hold fountain pen nibs or decant ink from hard-to-use bottles. They can also be turned into a cute vase, or filled with sand and used as an incense holder. You can think of dozens more uses that an old ballpoint refill can never do.
All the benefits, none of the mess
Fountain pens have more benefits than ballpoint pens, and they also match all the perceived benefits you think you get from your standard Bic.
Worried about price? You can find fountain pens on Amazon that are less than $20. Craving convenience? Get a fountain pen that accepts refills, or even a disposable fountain pen. Afraid of blots and ink stains? Get fast-drying ink.
Modern fountain pens also use advanced ink delivery systems that prevent ink from flooding, so you won’t experience the blotting and smearing that plagued our forefathers. So if you think ballpoint pens are easier, cheaper, and neater, that’s only because you haven’t tried the new pens.
See it for yourself: get a fountain pen now, and you’ll see why fountain pens are better than ballpoint pens.